May 22, 2015

Spotted at Storefront Pop-up: Men’s Jewelry by Kate Ellen

At the collective space The Common last Thursday during a Storefront pop-up shop event hosted by DNA, we were taken with jewelry designer Kate Ellen and her array of intriguing jewelry for men. Recently listed among the ‘Best of San Francisco 2010’ for fashion and beauty by 7×7 magazine, the self-taught jewelry designer – who, it should be noted, designs for both men and women – gave us the run down on her men’s pieces.

What inspired you to design men’s jewelry?

I started designing jewelry to make things I wanted to wear, and likewise, with men’s accessories, I like to design things I would like to see a man wearing. I think about what I would find attractive on a dude, and I go from there. When I was a little girl, I was always fascinated with my dad’s garage, with all the tools and hardware, and in wonder that he knew how to use it all. My men’s stuff is an homage to the garage and to people who still know how to make and build things with their hands.

What type of man wears your jewelry? Do you feel it takes a certain type of man to pull off jewelry – or would you say it’s something any man can wear?

I think any man can pull it off. My line is comprised of throw-back and retro designs, like cuff-links, tie tacks and tie clips. So any man who has an occasion to put on a shirt and tie will look amazing in my stuff. The designs are very masculine and stylish, so both a dude’s dude and a really fashion conscientious man will look sexy.

Your thoughts on The Common Storefront pop-up and how this event benefited you as a vendor?

I love getting opportunities to meet other local designers and engage with people who appreciate local artisans. I love these type of events because they are so unique and creative – this is not your mama’s trip to the mall.

For more on Kate Ellen, check out our previous coverage here. For more on her men’s items, check out her webpage catalog here.

Photography courtesy of Philipp Striebe for Kate Ellen Metals; make-up by Nadia Metwally; styling by Lynsey Clark.

Metal Maker: Kate Ellen on Getting Dirty, Tomboyhood and Jewelry

It might surprise you to learn that Bay Area jewelry designer Kate Ellen was never a girlie girl, which might seem like a prerequisite for success as a maker of pretty things women wear on their wrists, necks and lobes.

“I was always kind of drawn to the blurring of gender stuff. I grew up as a tomboy…The metal smithing end of [jewelry design] is something that girls aren’t traditionally taught to do. I get dirty. I’m wearing a mask when I work, and that’s part of the reason that I think it’s so much fun. It’s not totally over the top feminine. It’s somewhere in the middle,” says Point Richmond-based Ellen, who solders and shapes each piece of her silver, brass and gold jewelry ($80-$350).

The Bay Area native decided to pursue jewelry as a business only after intending to follow a career in public health. But the end of a relationship that led her across the country and back again sent her into reevaluation mode. That’s when the 28-year-old decided to take what had always been a hobby and turn it into a full-time gig.

“I felt like I really wanted to be doing something really creative and artistic. I basically just decided to just go for it,” she says.

Ellen may make it sound simple, but ask her more about her journey, and you’ll quickly discover that hard work and entrepreneurial spirit lies underneath. In addition to classes at East Bay creative hub The Crucible, Ellen took business and accounting classes and reads voraciously about entrepreneurship.

Her advice for budding designers?

“Even if you’re really, really talented, just prepare yourself that it’s marathon and not a sprint,” she says.

As for the pieces that Ellen makes for men and women, the frill-free designs mix hard and soft sensibilities and can often be worn in more ways than one.

Says Ellen:

“My aesthetic is sort of industrial, but very organic at the same time because a lot of the shapes aren’t perfectly symmetrical and a lot of the pieces are sort of androgynous.”

Want to peruse Kate Ellen Metals in person? You’ll currently find them at Wonderland in San Francisco. Custom orders are also available by contacting Ellen directly.

More San Francisco jewelry designers